Green Asia

Commentary: Idea no enough? Why movie directors like Jack Neo keep spinning sequels

The disparity between social media critics and box office numbers exists globally.

The Star Wars sequel trilogy, for example, has been panned by hardcore fans and neutrals alike. Yet, its first instalment, The Force Awakens, ranks as the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time, and the trilogy overall accounts for more than 40 per cent of the franchise’s total box office revenue over 11 films.

There is no doubt that there are plenty of talented filmmakers in Singapore – the likes of whom have produced Ilo Ilo, Pop Aye, 881 and more. While these films garnered critical acclaim at international festivals, none of them have had box office success.

For all the social media bluster, indie movies just aren’t the majority’s cup of tea. The multi-Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once is only the 13th top-grossing film in Singapore’s box office, beating the latest sequel of Indiana Jones just by a hair’s breadth.

The majority of moviegoers watch films to be entertained, as a form of escape from their realities. The more fantastic, and sometimes the more ridiculous, the better. Serious dramas, especially those reflecting real life, often take a lot of effort to watch.

That’s not to say that audiences do not have the appetite for them, as Oppenheimer’s box office success has shown. Some argue that franchise movies are losing their appeal. The latest phase of Marvel movies have generally underperformed, as well as the latest installments of Mission Impossible and Indiana Jones, but you’re still talking numbers that usually surpass original films.

A more sombre theory is that a new generation of consumers no longer appreciate the long form as much. Gen Zs and Gen Alphas grew up watching short videos on YouTube and TikTok as their primary source of entertainment, and these rarely translate to a regular moviegoing habit. They’d still watch the occasional blockbuster, but don’t really have the appetite to sit through two hours to discover something new.

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